The current downturn, 30 months in, has caused many of us to question whether the oil industry is dying. The number of oil and gas jobs lost during this downturn is estimated to be between 300,000 - 400,000 worldwide. At the same time the industry faces existential threats from environmentalists, alternative energy and electric cars.
Here, we discuss what is likely to happen, and what you should do about it.
We live in an age of massive change
Change is all around us, in fact many of the assumptions that we grew up on, that our parents taught us, are turning out to not be true for us at all. For example:
- There are no 'jobs for life' anymore, job security is an illusion.
- Education is being seen less as an early life event, and more of a lifelong endeavor.
- The average person is experiencing more frequent job changes, and career changes too.
- Technological advances threaten many jobs, and demand that we take a new look at our skill sets and future prospects.
So rather that watching the oil price, and wondering when the recovery will start, we need to look inward, at things that we can control. Some of these things include health, personal finances, training and continued education. Luckily, we can easily find the information that we need online. The paradox is that we have less control of our job security, and more control of our lives in general.
Many of the younger oil and gas workers are finding the need to look at other industries, not knowing when they might be able to come back.
At NatResPro, we are believers in consistent personal training and improvement
Even during boom times, the best workers continue to learn both at work, and at home. Many offshore oil and gas workers work the 28 day rotation cycle. What you choose to do during your 28 days off will determine your career trajectory.
During your time at home, there will be plenty of opportunity to study and further your career in the oil and gas business, for example:
OnePetro offers a huge amount of online, freely available journals and other technical papers. Here is a quote from their site:
OnePetro is an online library of technical literature for the oil and gas exploration and production (E&P) industry. With contributions from 18 publishing partners and providing access to over 160,000 items, OnePetro.org is the definitive resource on upstream oil and gas. Access to OnePetro is available to the general public and full-text articles and technical content can be obtained online through individual purchase or subscription.
Oilandgastraining.com is another good option for those who want flexibility and a quality online training program.
IHRDC presents OilandGasTraining.com offering instant access to almost 1,000 online professional and petro-technical training courses in over 300 subject areas. With a built-in web-based learning management system (LMS), companies and/or individuals can easily: Identify and purchase courses that meet their training needs; Track and monitor course performance, assessments, certificates, test-scores, and reports; and, Instantly assign courses to employees while providing a cost-effective, scalable solution to deliver e-Learning.
Petrolessons.com is a newcomer to the oil and gas online education space, they are the first crowdsourced option. This type of solution is less regulated and 'tried and tested', and will be dependent on the quality of the contributors. A quick scan of the contributing authors page will likely reveal a few industry names that are already familiar to you.
Petroskills offer comprehensive courses to petroleum professionals, it is more of an offline solution but worth investigating depending on your location. Here is a snippet from their website:
With a complete spectrum of solutions, courses and learning tools, PetroSkills is developing competent petroleum professionals in all technical processes, spanning the industry's entire value chain, worldwide. PetroSkills services and solutions connect learning to the workplace, allowing employers to manage and assure the competence of workers at every level.
There are savvy workers in all industries who have decided to study online to gain new qualifications. We don't need to go back to university or college for 2-4 years in order to learn new skills, or to change industry. Taking a few months off can be hard financially, let alone a few years where you have to pay huge sums from your savings. Practical and commercially viable skills can be learned online. Not just at online universities, but in a range of micro or nano degrees or skill specific qualifications. Ones that companies need, and are looking to hire for. You can also learn to market any kind of product or service online, including marketing yourself!
Most of us will have questioned the future of the oil and gas business in recent months...
We see discussions every day about when the oil and gas industry will recover... People ask "is this the new normal?" when in fact ‘normal' represents relatively short periods of time in human history.
Some say that fossil fuels should be banned immediately, if that were realistic then most people would be open to the possibility. Especially those who suffer from asthma and other illnesses related to air pollution.
Who would seriously be against zero air pollution? Fresh air in all major cities? A fossil-nut?
Who would want to hold on to a toxic relic from the history of human evolution and technical innovation - IF there were a better alternative to cover all of our demand requirements?
The reality is that fossil fuels are here to stay, at least for a few decades. Even if cars with internal combustion engines were banned, and coal burning electrical plants were too... Would we still drill for oil and gas? Of course we would.
Fuel for cars represents a small slice of demand, dominated by petrochemical byproducts, plus freight and airline fuel. Does anyone think that plastic products will be outlawed any time soon? If they are replaced by something biodegradable then perhaps this is as welcome as the end of air pollution.
One day, we might see then end of mining and drilling, but this would be so far into the future it is probably something for our children or grandchildren to ponder.
In the meantime, expect booms and busts every few years, and then later on we can look back at the trend lines and see if the industry has expanded or contracted from today.
Where does that leave the 300,000 - 400,000 displaced workers? Where does it leave an equal number who might be uncertain about the future?
The real question is not where the future of the industry lies, but where YOUR future lies. Is it a future of fear of change, negativity and doubt? Or is it a future of embracing change, self-betterment and new opportunities?
Whether you are a driller, chef, doctor or accountant, your job could be at risk. There is no job that a self-learning autonomous robot will be unable to do. Everyone's job could be at risk at some point in the future.
History tells us that when an industry dies, it is replaced. Jobs disappear but people don't. In the early 1900's over 40% of adults in the US worked in agriculture, now it is around 2%. Did the agricultural revolution make us better or worse off?
The word ‘Luddite' came from a movement against automated weaving machines, they were worried about the loss of jobs for those who made clothes by hand, not just stitching, but the creation of the cloth! There were those who were in the horse and cart industry that were against Henry Ford's first factory automation.
Does this sound like you? Would you have been the very last blacksmith? Or would you have seen a good thing and went to work for Henry Ford? Perhaps even in competition with him?
So, one day you job might be literally gone for ever, but that time is likely to be a long way off. In the meantime, if you want to stay in the same role, you need to make sure that you are not among the weakest and least efficient among your peers.
More importantly than the reality, is the perception.
You might not be the best at what you do (although perhaps you are?)...
It is possible to create the impression that you are!
Action steps, regardless of whether the oil and gas industry dies:
Updating your CV to ensure that it shows your skills and experience in the very best light. This is something that is hard to do on your own, most people are humble and do not like to blow their own trumpet too much. If you get a CV makeover from one of our skill pool advisors then they will know what to accentuate and what to subdue in your profile. The way that you see yourself and your own achievements will be different to the way that others perceive it.
Tidy up your social media profiles to make sure that they are all current and up to date. Politely ask friends and colleagues for endorsements if they are aware of your work and can endorse you honestly. Remove any images that might show you in a negative light.
Get active in any available communities, both online and offline. It will probably always be true that people prefer to hire others that they already know and like. You next client or employer could be part of a community that you are already part of, or could join easily. As with the industry itself, it will be a while before robots are making hiring decisions. Here are the best two oil and gas communities online.
Create a business website that can grow in size and authority over time. Showcase your knowledge, experience and expertise there. Your own website trumps a social media profile because most of your competition will not have a website. Everyone has a Facebook or LinkedIn profile, only subject matter enthusiasts and/or experts are perceived to have a technical website.
It makes sense to create a website, or online store in other industries. Was the oil and gas business a dream industry that you worked towards as a small child? Are you more passionate about your most recent job, as you are about your most recent hobby or challenge outside of work? In a modern information economy, a lawyer might decide that they will be happier as a florist. An engineer might be happier as an adventure travel tour operator. We are in the age of the ‘side gig' that can be created in the evenings and weekends, sometimes these projects lead to more happiness, sometimes more money, sometimes both. The most likely scenario is for the side gig NOT to take off, but we are on this Earth for a short while, following your dreams in a safe way might be worth a try.
Decide that your training and education is a lifelong process, not something that you did 'when you were young' or 'at school'. With the possibility of online courses and training, there is no reason for you not to continue to home your skills and resume. There is a wealth of information for you to learn online about the energy industry, or any other industry too.
It is not that we would like to see you leaving the industry, that wouldn't make any sense as it would be akin to a store owner asking customers to shop elsewhere. It is more that we all have a duty to help others in way that are in their interest, not just our own. We hope that the industry turns and that you will be one of the new candidates that we help place into that perfect role. Regardless of whether this happens, lets all take the initiative of making the best of the situation that we face, right now.
The answer to the question of whether oil and gas is a dying industry has been answered in part by Donald Trump. Whilst we rarely delve into politics here at NatResPro, it is very clear that 'The Donald' is surrounding himself with pro oil and gas advisors. It is likely that green fuel subsidies will be removed, and that oil and gas exploration will be encouraged.
Is the oil and gas industry dying? Not yet, and not for a while...
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